In 2009 a high school graduate destined for a university faced daunting challenges to achieve a successful transition to college. The student was the first in her economically disadvantaged family to apply for college. No one in her family was college educated, and her life until now was sheltered. Academically a high achiever, she was accepted into a college nearly 200 miles away. She needed assistance to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that would qualify her to receive federal, state and college-sponsored financial aid for college. Her anxiety about leaving home and fending for herself was nearly overwhelming. Her impoverished family was barely able to resource her for dorm life. There was no money for books. She faced a brand-new lifestyle that was complex and confusing. One result was overspending a meal card and creating a significant debt that prohibited her from starting her second semester. With no money to pay the debt she would be forced to leave school. In the end, what could have ended disastrously was turned around by College Bound AZ.
This experience showed that economically disadvantaged students require an investment of resources to aspire to higher education. In 2010, a group of area business and civic leaders concerned about their community’s low income population, embarked on a mission to give talented and deserving young students from economically depressed families the motivation and support needed to graduate high school and go on to college. In September 2010, College Bound AZ launched its pilot program for six students at a local elementary school, adding a high school component in 2012. College Bound AZ’s vision is to expand to support Arizona’s goal of ensuring 60% of Arizonan’s have a certificate or college degree to secure prosperity for its citizens and its future workforce.